I’ve watched round 4 of the BTCC a while back (not live, one or two days later).
This weekend the series raced at Oulton Park and it switched from the Island circuit to the International circuit for the first time since 1996 – since that awful first lap accident happened at the Island corner that year.
The move just didn’t pay off in terms of spectacle.
1) The longer circuit removed the seemingly only overtaking spot on the track, the one at the Island hairpin.
2) A longer layout meant fewer laps and fewer opportunities for the crowd to see the cars.
Now, I love the International layout and I think most of the borefest was owed at least as much to poor rule-making as to the layout change.
Apparently, BTCC is strict to enforce track limits with a penalty coming after a few caution if all four wheels come off the track while gaining an advantage. This discourages overtaking moves as it makes overshooting a corner more risky for the driver. Now this rule is perfectly OK in F1 due to the large asphalt run-offs which makes it rewarding for a driver if he overshoots a turn while overtaking, but it has no place at BTCC where most of the tracks have old school grass run-offs. A little exceeding is not wrong in my view and it becomes unefficient to go off further than in F1 anyway. In NASCAR there are no such limit at all at road courses, greatly contributing to risk-taking approaches and exciting races, I think.
Second, BTCC apparently penalize contacts as well after a while (like Plato got shuffled back for the bump-and-run he did in race 2 and I wonder how Alain Menu got away with what he did there as well), which has the exact same effect as the above rule. In NASCAR, there’s no such thing and it is the drivers who have to kind of implement the wise idea of ‘don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you’ – so while bump-and-run is permitted it is still not used as often.
Third, and this is just insane, considering the strictness of the rulebook in the above two cases and the extremely narrow layouts of the British circuits, there is no limit on how many moves a driver can make before a braking zone. I feel like the one move rule of F1 would make overtakings much more likely.
Fourth: scrap Britten’s chicane for a longer run on full power towards Hislops and I think even that would help a lot.
Fifth: the TV director was just absolutely awful, missing what little action there was…
As a BTCC newbie, I was in awe of what I saw at Brands and Donington this year – especially Donington – but I think it would be a knee-jerk reaction from BTCC to switch back to the Island circuit next year and leave the rules intact.
In a nutshell, I think BTCC basically made all the wrong moves and it resulted in this borefest of three races. Now I’m not saying ‘just borrow NASCAR’s rulebook’. Change only ONE of the above and it would be a whole lot better here next year – sadly, I heard they’ll probably just switch back to the Island layout.